Occidental winter sports prepare for 2019-2020 competition

Women’s basketball practices at Rush Gym at Occidental College. Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019. Bobby Yu/The Occidental

The fall sports season is coming to an end, but winter sports teams have been preparing since the early fall for their fast approaching season. Winter sports teams are required to stay on campus over winter break from Dec. 14–Jan. 19, except for the week of Christmas. Both men’s and women’s basketball teams have games over winter break, and swimming and diving also attends meets during the break.

The swimming and diving team attended their first meet Oct. 11, men’s basketball played their first exhibition game Nov. 2 and women’s basketball will play their first exhibition game Nov. 17.

Swimming and diving

Occidental’s swimming and diving team introduced 14 new members to its team this fall. Many of the new members began their training in the summer, and captain’s practices began at the start of the 2019 school year, according to swimmer Cindy Dong (sophomore). Occidental’s swimming and diving team showed strong performances: the women’s 200 medley relay placed highest among Division III schools at the Oct. 11 and Oct. 12 Malibu Invitational, despite the fact that the team transitioned to the 2019–2020 preseason without a head coach.

According to Dong, the selection of a new head coach, Haley Mitchell, brought excitement and energy to the swimming and diving team, which had been anticipating a new coach since the start of the school year. According to Dong, Mitchell has had a positive impact on the team’s training.

“In practices, everyone loves her. I don’t think anyone has any complaints at all,” Dong said. “She knows that we need to take care of academics and health first, and then put that forth into swimming.”

Women’s Basketball

According to women’s basketball team member Tomi Eijima (first year), women’s basketball started the preseason with conditioning and captain’s practices about two weeks after the school year began.

According to Eijima, once preseason started, practices occur anywhere from five to seven days a week with a mix of conditioning and drill practices.

Preseason training for the women’s basketball team is not just about being physically fit for competition — Eijima said one of the goals for the team’s preseason training is improving offensive and defensive play before the season begins.

Men’s Basketball

Coming off their best season in a decade and a defeat at the SCIAC Tournament Championship game, the men’s basketball team began the preseason at the start of the school year with captain’s runs and lift sessions, according to men’s basketball team captain Ryan Kaneshiro (senior). Conditioning for men’s and women’s basketball are similar during the preseason, Kaneshiro said.

“Preseason is a lot [of] conditioning, running and trying to get into great shape. Also a lot of learning,” Kaneshiro said. “You have a lot of new people and, especially this year, you have a new offense, and you’re trying to learn the new offensive and defensive schemes but also the new fundamentals the coaches want you to learn.”

According to Kaneshiro, league practice will differ by focusing less on conditioning and more on style of play.

“During league, practice is never easy, but it’s a lot more in the middle of the grind, and everyone already knows what they are doing. It’s more going over offense and defense and specific scouting,” Kaneshiro said.

According to Kaneshiro, after a great season last year, the departure of many seniors and the introduction of nine first years, the men’s basketball team does not intend to change much of its preseason training and plans to go with what has improved the team in the past couple of years.

Building bonds

According to Kaneshiro, winter break is when the team members begin to establish strong friendships.

“You’re playing ball all the time, you are not going to classes, you are kind of just kicking it with your teammates,” Kaneshiro said. “You get very close that way.”

Eijima said she had some worries being away from home over winter break, but she is looking forward to the break as well.

“I think [staying over winter break] will be hard because I am close to my family and friends from home, and I know it will be hard seeing them all together when I can’t be there,” Eijima said. “I think it will give me a lot of time to get to know my teammates well, and it will be fun to do stuff around LA too because I haven’t seen all of LA, and we’ll be here without any assignments to do.”

Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams’ conference play begin Dec. 4, and the swimming and diving team’s first conference meet is Nov. 9.